Thursday, October 31, 2013

Unexpected Thoughts and Panda Bears

There was a time in my life that every talk show, single-girl comedy, post-30 woman seemed to be very concerned about the biological clock.  I'm not very good with clocks.  I've broken 3 with over-enthusiastic snooze buttoning.  I constantly run late, and I never know if I'm springing forward or falling back.  Naturally, I assumed that whatever life clock I was given was probably just not keeping good time.

I love babies.  Love them.  The baby head smell.  The tiny hands and feet.  The snuggling.  

I love toddlers.  The silly games.  The mixed-up vocabulary.  The squeal-giggles.

I love kids.  I even love my junior high kids, weird though they may be.

And I'm great with kids.  All of them.  I love that kids tend to love me.

I also love that all of those children go home at some point.  They're precious, but they're loud.  And I'm sort of selfish and set in my ways.  I was not one of those girls who grew up, planning my wedding and thinking of kids' names.  I assumed, one day, that I would get a job, get a husband, get some kids because that's what just seemed to happen.  But for a dozen different reasons, I never moved past the "get a job" step.

And it's been okay.  Sure, there are moments, watching my friends and their beautiful babies that I feel a little lonely, a bit empty, and I wonder if I'm missing out.  Then, right on cue, someone throws a fit or bites their sister or gets diarrhea, and I take myself home, grateful for the peace and quiet of a carseat-less drive.  

Tonight, I stopped by Target to grab a bag of  "just-in-case" Halloween candy and some shampoo.  As I stood, deciding between Starburst or Snickers, I looked up just in time to see the world's cutest panda bear, staring at me from the grocery cart near the Twizzlers.  She had golden curls and green eyes and her panda bear ears were ever-so-slightly askew.  As I passed by, she grinned a big grin and waved a tiny wave.

It was like a karate chop to the ovaries.

I've never been big on this holiday -- not even as a kid myself.  Face paint and masks freaked me out because I was never sure who was under them, and my indecisive behavior created an entire month of anxiety and arguments with my mom.  So, if there was ever a time for my biological clock to spring forward, I didn't think it would be on Halloween.

Yet there I was, 10 minutes later, browsing for a new conditioner and wondering how bad panda bear diarrhea could really be.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Fantasy Football Update -- Week #8

With 1/3 of my team in a bye week, and another 1/3 of my team out injured, it happened.

I WON, Y'ALL!  By like, 50 points.

I guess the strategy for me is to basically have zero choices in whom to start. I should forget to set my line-up on Thursday night so I can't second-guess, and I should adopt a "beat before I start" attitude when setting everyone else.

I'm just steps away from choosing  by mascot death match scenarios.

But I don't care because I WON!

I don't care what the calendar says. Week #8 is my Super Bowl.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Consider Yourself Lucky

I'm a nice person.  I really am.  I am kind and generous and generally well-behaved.

So if this is what you believe about me, I need you to stop reading.  Truly.  Just stop.  You may not like me after this.


I dedicated a large portion of my life and attention to a specific organization.  I trusted with all my heart that it was filled with wonderful people who believed in their own mission.  I loved showing up, for long stretches of time, and seeing the changes in our clientele from year to year.  I adored my staff -- even some of those who didn't make great choices -- because their heart was truly and totally devoted to it.  Many had grown up in that organization, both literally and figuratively.  I was honored -- privileged -- to work alongside people who ate, slept, and lived that organization.  And when I say this, please note that I am not exaggerating even the tiniest bit.  They gave (and a few continue to give) every last ounce of love and dedication to that place.

You'll notice that this post is in the past tense.  The past.  Not the present, and most certainly not the future.  Because you see, that organization that I believed so strongly in wasn't very honest with one of my dearest friends.  They weren't very responsible with the information they shared or the half-truths they told.  They weren't very respectful of her or me or so many of my darling staff, and the way that they shut all of them out certainly wasn't very caring.  Fail.  Fail.  Fail.  Fail.

Way to live what you love, jerks.

And that was their choice.  I'm a big believer in choices.  Make it.  Live with it.  Move on.

But it's hard to move on.  There are so many precious memories associated with that job.  There are so many beautiful experiences I had with the people I worked with so closely.  I recognize the fact that the actions and choices made by a big, faceless organization do not always reflect the feelings of some of the worker bees within it -- a worker bee's gotta work after all -- but it's pretty damn hard to separate the two.  And a couple of those worker bees didn't give a buzz about what was happening.

Fine. They made their choice.  Live it.  Move on.

I made mine, too, and I was okay with that.  I'd made my peace with it.  I hadn't heard a peep from any of those people for 10 months, and truthfully, that was fine by me.  It didn't shock me in the least that the very next cut was me.  Expected and acceptable.

What isn't fine by me, though?

Tonight, when after 10 months of ignoring me, you call me FOR A DONATION.

You call me, for my hard-earned money -- money I did not earn from you because apparently everything I did for your organization was JUST NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

You call me, asking for help, when you didn't have the DECENCY OR COURTESY to even say thank you for all the times I did help you for absolutely nothing in return.

You call me, expecting me to be honest and caring and respectful and responsible, when you so obviously were not.  And then you start calling all of MY FRIENDS?  Newsflash: they didn't give TO you.  They gave FOR me.  And maybe they're more decent than I am and will continue to give.

Call 'em.  It just might work.

(By the way, is it hard to walk around with balls that IMPOSSIBLY HUGE?  Because you've got a gigantic pair to keep my donation card in that stack.)

You call me, hoping that I'd forgive and forget, I'm sure.  BECAUSE I HAVE PROVEN TO BE A REALLY NICE PERSON IN THE PAST.

Well, that was the past.  Not the present.  Certainly not the future.

Here's how I wanted to answer the phone:

You have obviously called the wrong house.  I AM a nice person, but I'm no doormat.  Yes, I was very -- brutally -- honest in my displeasure at your inept handling of the situation, but I kept that as private as I could, trying hard to maintain a professional and polite attitude in public.  And I WAS willing to forgive until you turned your back on kids who had dedicated their entire lives to you, not even allowing them a courtesy call.  I will continue to care about all of those kids I helped raise, and I will continue to give responsibly to organizations that appreciate what little money or time I can give.  But I'm done being respectful.  

Maybe I'm being petty.  Maybe I'm the one being a jerk right now.  Maybe I am letting my pride and anger get the best of me.  But if I give you my money -- no matter how noble the cause may be -- I am also telling you that how you treat people -- how you treated MY people -- is okay by me.  And, frankly, it's just not.  Maybe I'll get my karmic comeuppance, but hopefully so will you.

By the way, is it hard to walk around with balls that IMPOSSIBLY HUGE?  Because you've got a gigantic pair of watermelon balls to keep my donation card in that stack.

I got a great many gifts in my time with your organization.  Certainly more than I ever expected.  And the best thing about them?  They don't call me when they need my money.  They call me when they just need me.

But I didn't. I didn't even answer the phone.  I'm glad too, because you know who they gave my card to?  Some new little worker bee who doesn't know any better and probably couldn't give two shits as long as he gets his $1.27 per hour and his cafeteria dinner.  I've seen what those kids get to do, and the last thing he needs is my indignation.  He'll have enough of his own sooner than he thinks.

And I had a great day today, and nothing is going to ruin it.

Silver lining:  I was at least a little bit kind though.   My cat threw up on the donation letter sent to me from the last organization to screw over a friend of mine.  I folded it up, put it in an envelope, and sent it right back.

Consider yourselves lucky that I just chose not to take your call tonight.  It's hard to send cat puke over the phone line.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Other Sister

This is Amanda.
26.2 miles later and still full of pep.

Amanda is the little sister of one of my best life friends, Courtney.

I have known Amanda since she was 17, when she was a cheerleader and homecoming queen and future SMU sorority girl.  If I had only looked at her Popularity Resume, I might have assumed that we'd never be friends.  Luckily, Amanda's personality is bigger than any silly little piece of paper. And so is her heart.

I am Amanda's Other Sister.  

No, she doesn't think of me as Juliette Lewis playing a mentally disabled girl in a romantic comedy...
...but if she did, it would be okay.  Because the reenactments with her, Court, and myself would be outstanding.  This is probably because we'd have had several Roman Cokes before any performances began.  Roman Cokes (rum and Coke) are a complete Amanda-ism.  Amanda-isms are family famous, unintentionally hilarious, verbal miscues, and God bless her, they never go away.  

There are few people I enjoy entertaining more than Amanda.  She delights in my daily battles with teenage stupidity, and she encourages my wicked snark like few others.  And not many people can make me laugh as frequently or intensely as Amanda.  She is unafraid to find the absurd, point out the awkward, or revel in her own mishaps.  She and her husband, Ben, have a knack for encountering the weirdest people and strangest situations, and their stories beg for re-tell after re-tell.

These are my Black friends.  They're very dignified.

Amanda, Ben, and their Black babies.

 If it makes for a good story, Amanda is in.  (This might be how she and I wound up together, in our tangerine bridesmaid dresses, at the world's shadiest karaoke bar after Courtney's wedding.)  

For all of her laughter and hijinks though, she's also fairly adept at saying just the right thing (or leaving me just the right comment), out of nowhere, right when I need to hear it.  Those Hopkins girls coached me right into this blog, and when I would think no one was listening, there they were, encouraging me yet again. They come by it naturally, as so many times, their family has been as close as my own.

Amanda is many things: a faithful Christian, a nutso marathoner, a cheap wine connoisseur, a silly Aunt Manny, a strong-willed daughter, a loving wife, a dedicated Mama, and a super sister.

Even if she's just my Other Sister.

Happy Birthday and olive juice, Manders.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

There's Just No Class For This...

So yesterday, I wrote about the mysteries of the 7th grade boy.

Today, I found no answers.  Only more questions.

In 4th period, one of my guys was rummaging in his zip-up binder (just a modern-day, less-cool Trapper Keeper in my opinion).  That binder is where both homework and logic go to die.  In a 5 minute span, he took out a key, 8 markers, a half-eaten Pop-Tart, and a stick of deodorant.

I watched him stare at the Speedstick for a minute or so before I asked what he was doing.

"Trying to figure out if I put this on today."

Now... I must admit, there have definitely been rushed mornings where I perhaps have run out the door without my Secret swipe, but it only takes about 5 minutes to know I've made a huge mistake.  I go to sticky pit panic fairly quickly.  But it was 12:30 PM, and we were in the middle of composing an essay.

So I went with my go-to advice in most situations: "Better safe than sorry, man."  I assumed that he would ask to go to the bathroom and handle his business.  After 14 years, I still have not learned my lesson on assumptions.

I was reminded about the mistake of assuming when he popped the cap off and started up his shirt to deodorize his pits.  At. His. Desk.  Completely unaware.  Thankfully, his classmates happened to be working and not paying attention to him.

All I could do was advise him to go out to do this and try not to laugh.  I assume he went to the bathroom, but someone might want to check the hallway camera.

I love my university, and I think I got a pretty quality education.  But there's just no class for shit like this.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

It's a Mystery

I had two 13 year old boys fighting in my classroom.

Before 9:00 AM.

Over a pencil.

Literally... I kid you not... they were fighting over a pencil.  Slap-in-the-back-of-the-head, shove-each-other-before-the-Pledge-is-even-said, cause-a-disruption-and-wreck-each-others-day, "fight".

Over a pencil.  

I do not understand teenage boys.  Even after 17 years of working with them, they are a mystery. I don't understand why they are constantly trying to punch each other in the crotch.  I do not understand why they incessantly draw penis pictures on anything that has a flat surface.  I do not understand how they can punch each other in the mouth, and, one hour later, be best friends again.  And I definitely do not understand how a pencil -- a plain yellow pencil -- is worth a fight and a trip to the office over.

A pencil.

Somebody... anybody... explain.


Monday, October 21, 2013

FF Update: Week # I-Don't-Even-Know-Anymore

Yep.  That about says it all.

I really hate that my parents fed me all that "finish what you start" and "winners never quit; quitters never win" bullshit my entire life.

Parental propaganda is all that's keeping me in this Fantasy Football thing.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

I See You, Barry Bonds

I got a steroid shot on Thursday.  Usually, that makes me instantly feel better (and a little jittery) and gives me a jolt of energy that leaves me unblinking and moving non-stop for about 4 hours.

It did nothing.  Until yesterday.

I went to school for a training and came home ready to work.  I did 6 loads of laundry, washed the dishes, cleaned out a closet, and boxed up 3 bags of donation clothes and items.  I was a whirlwind.

This morning, I woke up again, ready to continue the clean-out.  I resumed my adventure, cleaning out a desk and a box that has moved with me 3 times (and never been sorted).  Here's what I turned up:
This was all in one desk drawer.
A desk drawer that I obviously haven't opened in over a decade.

Yep. 4 old phones, including chargers.
What do you even do with this stuff?


I used this one forever.

5 rolls of undeveloped film.
Dropping it off tomorrow.  We shall see.  

When was the last time stamps were 37 cents?
2002.  That's when.

I can't even...

That's a gift check for $25.  Just in a drawer.
Wondering when it would be noticed.
I come from a long line of hoarders, and I'm afraid that both my nature and nurture have defeated me.

I found 9 purses.  Nine.  In those 9 purses, I found $8.35 in spare change, 6 pots of lip balm, and a Barnes and Noble gift card that still has $14.57 on it.  In two days, I've filled both the trash and recycling bins.  And I've still got 5 junk drawers, 1 closet, and 2 more rooms to go.

I'm starting to rethink my stance on performance-enhancing drugs.  I see your 73 homeruns, Barry Bonds.  And I'll raise you $47.92.


Friday, October 18, 2013

No Middle Ground

I've been at home, sick, for 2 days.  Of that time, I was only awake in 20-30 minute stretches at a time.  I even managed to doze off in the waiting room of emergency care yesterday.  So, needless to say, updating the blog was not top priority.  It also wouldn't have been very interesting.

It's my self-imposed policy to stay away from texting, tweeting, Facebooking, etc. while I'm sick.  It's just not pretty, and I even tend to annoy myself after a while.

At school today, from my students, there were two distinct responses to my return to work:

A) "YOU'RE BACK!  I MISSED YOU!" (followed by a hug)


2) "Where you been?  You ain't lookin' so good!"  (followed by a side eye)

There is absolutely no middle ground with 7th graders.

I was also greeted with a few children who decided to test my patience... see if a couple days of fever sweats made me forget my own expectations.  They didn't.  I made 4 phone calls home and had 3 separate hallway conferences.

There is absolutely no middle ground with this 7th grade teacher either.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Form a Line

Several years ago, I asked my mom that if she could look down the road to my future husband and give him a piece of advice about me... what would she say?

Without even the slightest pause, she said, "She's the worst sick person ever."  If you don't want the truth, don't ask my mother.

Now, keep in mind that my mom is, self-admittedly, a terrible nurse.  But in the years since, I've had several wonderful and loving friends agree with her whole-heartedly.   They have been known to drop the cold medicine or 7-Up at the door, knock, and run.

And they're right. I've felt lousy for 2 days, and I just had to resist a minor meltdown in the Target aisle because they've discontinued my favorite body soap.

Form a line at the front door, gentlemen.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Fantasy Football Update: Week #Whatever

As of the beginning of tonight's Chargers/Colts game, I was losing my Fantasy Football game 114-102.  But here was the good news:

I still had two players left to play tonight. My opponent had none.   I already had scored a season-high number of points (for me, a small miracle).  My two players only had to score 13 points total to win; they were projected to score 27 total.

Sounds like a sure bet, right?  Not so fast, my friends.   No such thing.

So, of course, they scored 11 points. Total.  I lost 114-113 and suffered through 3 hours of terrible football.

And I'm out of NyQuil.

I hate everything.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Mission Accomplished

I spent the evening with some of my favorite people, Karen, Courtney, and Allison.  Our common connection is camp (Karen, Court and I were all counselors -- Allison was once a camper for all of us and then later a co-counselor).

My favorite thing about spending time with them (and basically all my friends) is that we are past the need to go DO something.  And when we do go OUT somewhere, it's a no-muss, no-fuss kind of thing.  We've learned that our favorite moments occur when we don't have to put the effort in finding a place to go and instead focus on each other.

I haven't seen Karen since July, and it's been almost two years since I saw Allison (she's graduated, changed cities, and started a whole, stable career since then).  The long absences really only set us up for a night of good drinks, crazy stories, and ridiculous amounts of laughter.  Ridiculous.

And as always, mission accomplished.

Friday, October 11, 2013

True or False?

At lunch today, a student came up to me and said, "Coach Naz, I've really got to talk to you."

I was concerned because A) I don't even have this student -- but I know this student.  EVERYONE knows this student, and 2) I have never, ever seen him look so serious.  But he was.

"What's up?  You okay?"  I was genuinely weirded out by the grave look upon his face.

"Yeah.  It's just that today... on my history test... there was a question.  Question #7, I think.  And it said 'True or False: Mr. Stimmel is a better teacher than Coach Naz.'"  And then he looked at me with real, honest-to-goodness sad-face.  I've seen angry-face and wild-eyed crazed-face, but I've yet to see the sad-face.

I already knew about this test question since my new nemesis had already come to show me all of his answers from the students we share.  He had, of course, bullied them into choosing "true".

I went ahead anyway and asked, "So, what did you choose?  True?  Or False?"

"Well, see... I've got a 75 in that class... and I HAVE to make a better grade, so... I... chose Mr. Stimmel."  Again, with the sad-face.

I gave him the side eye for a good 10 or 12 seconds before I responded.

"Well, you sold me out, but you sold me out for the greater good, I suppose.  I'll let it slide this one time.  But just this once."  And then I gave him a quick hug-strangle and sent him on his way.

In a day that physically wore me out, a kid that I don't teach and don't really know, made my day. It cost him nothing but a small confession and 60 seconds of his time.

True or False:  Shouldn't we all be so wise?

Stimmel also had to show me this:
I think she'll be eligible for political office in 2036.  

Also, Stimmel, I'll let you slide on that punctuation.  But just this once.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Most Important Lesson

I often joke about teaching or about my kids at school.  I sometimes even let my anger free flow and turn into a comical rage.  Things have to turn funny -- I have to find the funny moments -- because sometimes the state of our educational system makes me so sad.

It sometimes makes me deeply, unbelievably, dangerously sad.

I can remember the first time I realized that all kids in the world didn't go to school.  I think I was around 10 or 11.  I was horrified.  I couldn't imagine a world without my teachers, without books, without power.  For me, education was exploration.  Education was empowerment.  I was proud to be smart, and I was proud to work hard.  I was also shocked that not every kid in America felt this way.  Sometimes I still am.

Tomorrow, Malala Yousafzai stands a pretty good chance of winning the Nobel Peace Prize for her fight and unyielding courage in speaking out about educational rights for all.  Bravery knows no gender; courage sees no age.

I planned to have a quiz about sentence structure tomorrow.  Complex sentences are important, but I'm not so sure that's the most important lesson they could see.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Every 12 year old I know has only two sworn enemies: body odor and combination locks.  Both seem to mystify and confound even my smartest students.  Students who seem to believe that dollar store perfume and Axe body spray somehow replace soap and water.

Unlocking a combination lock is the ultimate test for adolescent youth.  It requires patience, attention to detail, and enough memory space to store 3 numbers.  None of these happens to be a 7th grader's greatest attribute.  I might as well have given them the instructions in Japanese or asked them to divide 8 by eleventy-billion.  Their blank stares haunt my dreams.

The first few weeks of 7th grade each year are full of crying, begging, and bargaining.  There are even a few punches thrown in absolute rage.  Learning to work their lockers is a full-on adventure into the 5 stages of grief -- for them and for me.

Stage 1: Denial
With an entirely new administration and an almost 50% new teaching staff, there were certain things that fell by the wayside in planning.  One of the most notable of these was, you guessed it, lockers.  So for 3 weeks, students wandered in and out of classrooms, all willy-nilly, carrying their backpacks.  Not a big deal, I thought, until I almost met my demise courtesy of Jansport interference within my inner loop.  Every day, no fewer than 37 children would interrogate me on the whereabouts of their locker combinations.


I'm telling you.  EVERY. FREAKING. DAY.

So, we gave them lockers.  They tried them. Once.  The next day, 37 children wandered aimlessly into my classroom -- with their backpacks.

"What happened to your demand for lockers, Norma Rae?" I asked.

"Lockers?  I never wanted a locker.  What do I need a locker for?  And who's Norma Rae?"

This.  This and that damned blank stare.  I have now endured the blank stare for 17 days with some of my kids.

Stage 2:  Anger
Me: "Put your backpack in your locker.  Put your backpack in your locker.  PUT. YOUR BACKPACK. IN. YOUR LOCKER."

Them:  (shock. indignation. gasps.)  "Whaaaatttt?  Huh?  No."

Me: (silently pointing at the lockers, blocking the door)


Stage 2 involves a tremendous amount of anger, on both their part and my own.

And for the record, if you punch your locker out of illogical and asinine rage, I will not drop everything to give you a nurse's pass for your hand.  Those are what I like to call "natural consequences".  Deal with it.

Stage 3:  Bargaining
This is a good one.  Stage 3 involves all sorts of promises.  But if you've ever known/depended upon a 12 year old to follow-through, you know how it will end.  So, much of Stage 3 just involves me either looking away and pretending not to hear OR masking my still-burning hostility with a look of bemused ambivalence.

"I'll be so quiet if you let me bring in my backpack."
"I won't tell anyone else you let me bring it in."
"I swear I'll learn my combination tomorrow."
"This is the last time I'll need your locker key."
"No, really... this is the last time I need your locker key."
"Can you open my locker with your key one last time?"

Stage 3 also sometimes involves tears.  It doesn't matter if it's a boy or girl.  For the first 7-10 days of learning lockers, someone will cry.  Guaranteed.  Tears are a child's only real bargaining strategy.

It's sad, but not in the intended way.

Stage 4: Depression
This one tends to fade quickly.  And if it doesn't fade, it just jumps straight back to anger.  The default setting for most adolescent youth is usually just anger at everyone over the age of 16, so this makes sense.  But there is a TREMENDOUS amount of whining and foot-dragging as I force kids to their locker to make them "Show me.  Show me how you can't possibly open your locker."

Stage 5:  Acceptance
The absolutely most gratifying stage of any teacher's day.  This is the moment where you relish the win. You have feasted upon their tears, grown strong from their hate, and proven, once more, that you will outlast them.

It's also the moment where, yesterday, after quickly visiting all 4 of the first stages within 45 seconds with a student, I marched her down to her locker, made some quick observations about her lack of combination lock finesse, and taught her the Way of the Locker.  I am, essentially, the Mr. Miyagi of Lockerdom.

The Way of the Locker:
  • Ignore the written directions. They're stupid.
  • Listen to me. I am Mr. Miyagi.
  • Shut up.  It's not important who he is except that he's awesome.
  • Breathe.
  • Go right. Slow down as you approach the number.
  • Go left. Pass it up... slow it down.
  • Go right. Pay attention.
  • If you mess up, start again.
  • Repeat as many times as necessary.
  • Don't forget to breathe.
  • Celebrate.
Which I did when she opened it three times in a row.  I threw up my hands to signal a touchdown and loudly proclaimed, "I MAKE MIRACLES HAPPEN!" in front of the Assistant Superintendent of Administration who happened to be visiting.

I didn't care.  Let him judge.  Let He who has not spent the last 32 days in Stages 2 and 3 cast the first stone.

And then let him take on the next one.  That kid stinks.  Probably because his Axe body spray has been securely locked away for 16 days.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Astronomy Lessons


It's something we all need and something so few of us have.

And it's terribly hard to teach a group of teenagers and pre-teens who have little to none.  On 3 separate occasions I had to share this lesson today.

And 3 is a record low.

Again, I'd like to take this public opportunity to apologize to everyone I knew at age 13.  Sweet Jesus.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Thunder Dome

See this dude?

Cute, right?

Well, in my house, he's delicious.

Yep.  My house is the house where geckos go to die.  Actually, my house is the house where geckos go to live in terror and confusion before suffering a slow and agonizing demise at the hands of the feline population.  I live with three terrorists.  Gecko terrorists.

I feel so bad for the little dudes.  With the weather getting colder, I think they're trying to sneak in to find a nice warm crack in the stucco in which to hide out.  

What they're really walking into is Thunder Dome.

I have 3 cats.  None of them get along.  Tolerance is forced, at best -- until a gecko is spotted.  Then, my living room floor turns into some sort of Gecko Air Hockey.  A lizard slapshot travels with a great deal of force when at the paws of a criminal mastermind.

I came home tonight, after a long day at school, to a massacre.  Two tiny geckos lay deathly still next to the couch (I like to think that they were young geckos in love -- the Romeo and Juliet of the Lizard Kingdom).  I had just covered their little bodies with a paper towel to show a little respect (and to distract the cats; they don't have the greatest short-term memories) when suddenly those little lizards sprang to life and took off for the door!  

Those lizards played possum!  It scared the bejeezus out of me, causing me to scream.  That, in turn, scared the bejeezus out of the cats, who scrambled for a safe hiding spot.  And that led to the Great Gecko Escape of 2013.

Fare thee well, Romeo and Juliet!  I hope you learned your dang lesson.  I certainly learned mine.  It's every woman/gecko for herself here in Thunder Dome.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Fantasy Football -- Week 5 Update

Fantasy Football -- Week 5.

I won.  Holy fut nuts, I won.


It was looking like I was going to need Matt Ryan to pull out a dozen points tomorrow to seal the win (as I left Hilton on the bench with 29 points today).  Ryan's  been fairly reliable for the first four weeks, so I was fully prepared for him to wake up with malaria tomorrow.  Necessary points could only spell doom for young Mr. Ryan.

But luckily, my opponent started an injured player and the Texans' defense.  If he weren't the single most competitive person I know, I'd think he was taking a dive.  In truth, I should probably make sure he doesn't have malaria.  My bad luck is sometimes as directionally challenged as I am.

Either way, you've been spared this week, Matt Ryan.  You're welcome.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Root

Today is World Teachers' Day.  The fact that A) I didn't know this, and I'm a teacher and 2) it's on a Saturday is so frustratingly appropriate that I can only shrug and laugh.  I only found out because one of my other favorite writers/teachers wrote a great piece about his 3rd grade teacher.  It's great, and you should go read it here.

It reminded me of a conversation I had with one of my fellow teachers not too long ago.  We'd been discussing her son's 4th grade teacher, and I couldn't help but remember my own.  Most of my elementary school career, I'd managed to fly under the radar.  I suspect that teachers knew I was smart and they liked me because I followed rules and kept quiet, but I don't have much of a sense of who I was as a child then.  Those memories are lost on me.

And then I landed in Bonnie Gooch's class.

I can remember so much about Mrs. Gooch's class.  I could probably even draw it out on paper if I had too.  She had the warmest smile, softest hands, and kindest voice I'd ever known.  She was also the tallest woman I think I had ever met, and I found it abnormally fascinating that someone so physically imposing could be so gentle.  Mrs. Gooch always read aloud to us in the afternoons, and there are certain books that when I hear them, I am transported back, head on my desk, warmed by the afternoon sun, soothed by her voice.  Mrs. Gooch taught me about dividing fractions, basketball rebounds, and compound sentences.  I think of her every time I teach my students about comma placement.

I think this was also the year we studied the plant cycle, growing beans in a cup.  I can remember my excitement at the green shoot, sprouting, spreading its roots throughout the soil I'd transplanted it to.  It was the first (and one of the only) things I've ever managed to grow.  It didn't last long as I hadn't realized that it would need room to grow and spread, that its roots needed more to anchor in and feed from.

More than just what she taught me, however, was the way she taught me to carry myself.  I was painfully shy and unconfident as a child, always struggling to please those around me.  I happened to be in a grade full of remarkably athletic boys and beautiful girls, and I struggled even just to stay near the middle.  When there are only 33 people in your grade, believe me, the middle does not contain a very wide margin for error.

If my earlier teachers had noticed any talent of mine, they never told me, and I had spent 4 years in school believing I had none.  Mrs. Gooch not only noticed, she made sure I knew.  She was a passionate competitor, and she encouraged this spirit in me as well.  She recruited me for her UIL Picture Memory team, an event which required the study of 40 paintings, their artists, countries of origin, and some critique.  I had never been exposed to such beautiful artwork (even in just print), and I marveled at how Mrs. Gooch could pronounce such difficult names and know so many things about places outside our small town city limits.  I was 21 when I visited the Kimbell Museum here in Fort Worth for the Renoir exhibit.  It was hot and crowded, but when I found myself nose to nose with a real-life Renoir, it was worth it.  I got yelled at by a security guard for being too close, but I didn't care.  When in my life would I be able to be so close to such history -- both that of the artist and my own?

Mrs. Gooch was also the first person to notice my love of writing.  She challenged me to be on her Ready Writing team.  It was difficult because I had grown up feeling like a child with no voice, with nothing of particular interest to say.  I couldn't imagine why she would tell me that she needed me, but she did.  We worked both in school and after, this little team of writers, racing the clock with only a pencil and our brains to arm us.  I do not remember even one word that I put to paper that year, but the feel of it was exhilarating.  I was only the alternate in that event, but it began my obsession with words.  It began my journey as both a writer and writing teacher.  It began my path to finding my own voice and then having the courage to use it.  For that alone, I'll be forever grateful.  It is a gift she had no idea she was giving.

I have been blessed by a lifetime of incredible educators, from elementary school all the way through college, and I continue to surround myself with some of the best in our field.  From each of them, I have taken nourishment and knowledge; each of them has a special place within my soul.  Other teachers along the way have nurtured what she planted, but Mrs. Gooch was the root.

Thank you for giving me room to grow.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Essential Knowledge

Here's what they don't teach you in education certification programs:


They don't teach you about tequila, and they should.  It's essential knowledge.

In fact, they should staple a margarita recipe to your teaching certificate because there will be days/weeks where you use both for equal amounts of time.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Power of a Twelve Year-Old Heart

This week has been vaguely terrible, and it's caused a great deal of pain and doubt in my heart.  I hate that.  

But this morning, oh this morning... At the start of 1st period, one of my favorite students asked to go to the orchestra room.  I let him go, and he came defiantly marching back with his violin.  He announced that another student had told him that "string" music was no good, and he was determined to prove her wrong.  He asked me if he could play for the class.  Loving his conviction, I surrendered the floor to him.

So before the tardy bell even rang, that 12 year-old football player stood in front of my classroom, underneath the flag, and he played.  He played for his classmates, for the teachers in the hall, and even for an assistant principal I hauled in.  And I stood in the doorway and cried at how beautiful his passion for music is.  His entire class was in awe.  Let me tell you, it's hard to strike a room full of 7th graders silent.  That was pretty beautiful too.  It's been a while since I have felt such pride in one of my Mustangs.

My school has taken a lot of heat lately, and we are facing challenges that overwhelm us on a daily basis.  There are children in my school who don't want to do the right thing.  There are children who don't know how to do the right thing.  There are teachers struggling to help those kids find the right path, so much so that sometimes we ignore those who are already upon it.  And we miss such beauty amid the chaos.  That causes a great deal of pain and doubt in my heart, too.

When he was done, I'm not sure he had changed that little girl's mind about string music, but he had rescued my whole day.  And that, my friends, is the power of a 12 year-old heart.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

This is Water

A colleague suggested this video to me at 10:30 AM.  

I didn't watch it until 8:00 PM as I sat in my driveway, in my car, too exhausted to open the door.

I wish I had taken the time to watch it at 10:30.  Watch it now.  

We're in this fishbowl together, y'all.